Thursday, September 2, 2010

Whirlpool expansion keeps 1,500 jobs in TN

Whirlpool Corp. bypassed Mexico and other U.S. locations to build a new cooking appliance plant and distribution center in East Tennessee, keeping 1,500 advanced manufacturing jobs there and creating 130 new ones.
The $120 million investment in Cleveland is the company's largest for a single new project, Whirlpool Chairman and CEO Jeff M. Fettig said.

Construction is expected to begin the last three months of this year, and the company will close an existing 100-year-old plant and distribution center there. The expansion signals the Benton Harbor, Mich.-based company's commitment to domestic manufacturing, company and state officials said.

"Whirlpool is proud to employ more U.S. manufacturing workers than any appliance maker selling products in the U.S.," said Al Holaday, vice president of manufacturing, operations and quality for Whirlpool North America.

RelatedManufacturing rallies stocksMap: Cleveland, Tenn.

The trend of onshoring or reshoring is a growing movement among manufacturers, including General Electric and Caterpillar Inc., which are bringing more operations back home.

"With a work force that is extremely productive and a business climate that is extremely attractive, we can compete with anyone anywhere in the world," said Matt Kisber, Tennessee's commissioner of economic and community development. Kisber was in Cleveland for the Whirlpool announcement on Wednesday morning.

Company officials made it clear they wanted to keep the jobs in the United States, said Kisber, whose staff had been in talks with Whirlpool since the first of the year.

"Had they chosen another location, I think we would have faced an uphill battle to retain those 1,500 jobs here," Kisber said. And that would have hurt other firms that are part of the manufacturer's supply chain near the Whirlpool campus in Cleveland.

Whirlpool plans a 1 million-square-foot manufacturing plant to make built-in cooking ranges and ovens, and a 400,000-square-foot distribution center. Phased-in production is expected to begin in the second half of 2011.

The company also operates a call center in Cleveland with 500 employees. No changes are expected there.

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